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Re: [XTalk] Multiple attestation

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  • William Arnal
    ... Excrementum taurorum, Bob. This isn t just off-base, it s also out of line. It MAY be that your own faith stance inclines you to be especially credulous
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 2, 2001
      Bob Schacht wrote:

      >My guess is that our different stances on this have, not coincidently, >to
      >do with our different faith/non-faith stances. Too many "positive"
      >statements, and you might have to change your non-faith stance ;-)

      Excrementum taurorum, Bob. This isn't just off-base, it's also out of line.
      It MAY be that your own faith stance inclines you to be especially credulous
      about the historicity of the gospels, but there are others for whom their
      faith has no such implication, most famously Bultmann. On the other hand,
      the fact that I am not a Christian does NOT require me to deny the
      historicity of these materials, it just means I have no positive reason for
      protecting their historicity. The evidence of the materials themselves is
      what makes me doubt their historicity. And -- leaving aside the whole issue
      of MIRACLES, which has already been discussed on this ad nauseum -- I am not
      sure how the historical reliability of the gospel narratives would have any
      effect on my personal stance to Xianity. If Jesus were really baptized, or
      really did say this or that, or claimed to be the son of God, so what? Why
      would that require my conversion?

      >use of multiple attestation is not that it *proves* that something was
      >historical, but that it *increases our confidence that it is*, subject >of
      >course to limitations that Eric mentions.

      Just so. Which means that the issue is NOT so much, as you stated, figuring
      out what constitutes "multiple" as it is recognizing those limitations. I
      was simply agreeing with Eric on this one. And multiple attestation CAN
      demonstrate, very strongly, certian types of things. For instance, a claim
      that a particular source INVENTED a tradition can at least be disproved by
      showing that the tradition in question is attested independently of that

      >It is, of course, not to be used
      >in isolation from other evidentiary criteria, but in concert with other

      I also agree with this. But it does suggest that the criterion is not strong
      enough to be used on its own.

      >Besides, just a few days ago, you were criticizing my harmonization of
      >Paul's life precisely because I was *not* able to provide multiple
      >attestation for Paul's education in Jerusalem. Are you trying to have >your
      >cake and eat it, too?

      Not at all -- I said I wouldn't be inclined to throw the principle out, just
      that it does have its limitations. In any case, this is a bad example,
      because the issue vis-a-vis Acts and the letters has nothing to do with
      multiple attestation, and everything to do with the rudimentary distinction
      between primary and secondary sources. If Paul says something about Paul
      (with all appropriate qualifications, of course), who needs multiple
      attestation? This is right from the horse's mouth. If Acts says it, though,
      it isn't, and Paul's failure to mention it himself can be telling. It's
      altogether a different issue.

      William Arnal
      Department of Religion
      University of Manitoba

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